The Friday 5/7/2021

Alain Uy: The Paper Tigers (Well Go USA)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

The Paper Tigers/The Last Shift. “Throw in a non-postcard approach to visualizing Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, and the director’s canny sense of comic timing, and you’ve got a sleeper on your hands.”

I have a new episode of my radio show, “The Music and the Movies,” produced by Voice of Vashon and available through its website. This one is called “In a Beatnik Mood,” and it’s all about how the movies responded to the Beat movement, in ways both sublime and ridiculous. I like this one, so give it a go.

The previous episode, “Not Even Nominated,” listens to the films that weren’t nominated for the Best Score Oscar this year. That one’s here until Sunday.

For my 1980s website What a Feeling!, I collect five more vintage reviews, namely: Ernest (On Golden Pond) Thompson’s 1969, which strands Robert Downey, Jr., Kiefer Sutherland, and Winona Ryder; Orlow Seunke’s Tracks in the Snow, a Dutch film; Yahoo Serious’s Young Einstein, that Australian comedy that briefly ruled the world; Neil Jordan’s High Spirits, a ghost comedy with Peter O’Toole and Steve Guttenberg and Daryl Hannah, allegedly ruined by studio interference; and Joe Johnston’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, with Rick Moranis and teeny-tinies.

Movie Diary 5/4/2021

All of Me (Carl Reiner, 1984). A tale of streaming vagaries. It was decided in the Horton household’s Movies for Fun (TM) project that a re-visit to this film would be pleasant. Two free online options, both reputable and widely used, were on offer. The first presented the movie in a stretched-horizontally aspect ratio – not grotesque, mind you, but just enough to make people’s heads look fat. The other went the opposite direction: It showed the film in a full-frame version, which is to say, not properly masked, with huge amounts of headroom at the top and wasted space at the bottom of the frame (space meant to be masked by the projectionist at the movie theater). I used the zoom feature to approximate the right masking, and we watched and enjoyed the movie, but sheesh. This kind of junkiness is not uncommon, of course. And it almost goes without saying that the film itself, in both cases, looked dim and tired, not much better than the average VHS experience circa 1988. What’s sad is that people watching this movie will assume this is the way it’s supposed to look. My 1984 review is here.

Movie Diary 5/3/2021

Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015). “Is it all going to be so interactive?” Some good moments in this Pixar outing, and an ingenious approach to visualizing its ideas.

Burnt Offerings (Dan Curtis, 1976). Family moves into a haunted house, wacky manifestations ensue. That period in horror, with strong pre-Shining echoes. The customary Curtis slowness dominates the movie, although casting Oliver Reed insured that some kind of roiling energy would be happening whenever the great man was onscreen (at one point he starts kicking the shit out of a large downed tree, and you figure the tree is probably a goner). Reed and wife Karen Black are like strangers, chemistry-wise. I was speculating that Reed and Bette Davis either got along great or couldn’t stand each other; apparently Davis was not having it. The kid is the boy who played “Steve Spelberg” in a Columbo episode.

Movie Diary 5/2/2021

The Man Who Wasn’t There (Joel Coen, 2001). I remember thinking that I didn’t quite get the Coen brothers’ neo-noir when it came out, and hadn’t seen it since. It’s very, very good. With so many big talkers in their cinematic universe, it was inspired to build a movie around a man who barely speaks. Frances McDormand has a distinctly supporting role here, but she’s extremely important to what the film is doing, especially in her final moments on screen. And Billy Bob Thornton’s hair is superb.

The Friday 4/30/2021

About Endlessness (courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

About Endlessness. “Life as a vague waiting zone. The unreality of it—the way snow doesn’t really look like snow in the film’s most enchanting sequence, but an artificial idea of snow—is well suited to these No Exit sketches.”

This week’s episode of my radio show “The Music and the Movies” is devoted to the film music that didn’t get nominated for Oscars this year. Stuff from First Cow, Lovers Rock, The Invisible Man, Emma., Tenet, One Night in Miami, etc. etc. Check it here.

Last week’s show, on the movies that were nominated for Best Score – including winner Soul – is here, at least until Sunday. Then on Sunday 5/2, the new one drops – at 7 p.m. on Voice of Vashon, and online thereafter for two weeks.

More ’80s reviews at What a Feeling!, including my vintage takes on films beginning with the letter O: Luis Puenzo’s Old Gringo, a literary adaptation with Jane Fonda, plus Gregory Peck as Ambrose Bierce; Garry Marshall’s Overboard, a Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell screwball comedy; Arthur Hiller’s Outrageous Fortune, featuring the unlikely pairing of Shelley Long and Bette Midler; Daniel Vigne’s One Woman or Two, a romcom with the (you got it) unlikely pairing of Gerard Depardieu and Sigourney Weaver; and a twofer recalling the time two animated behemoths opened on the same day, Disney’s Oliver and Company and Don Bluth’s The Land Before Time.

Movie Diary 4/27/2021

The Day of the Jackal (Fred Zinnemann, 1973). It holds up extremely well – almost as though designed as a pushback to today’s blown-up style of suspense. Mechanical in the best sense; even Edward Fox comes across as a constructed operator, lean and robotic, his smiles engineered for temporary social effect. (This is especially good in contrast to Michel Lonsdale’s very human presence, his pants mottled with guano from his pet pigeons.) It’s all coiled and dryly laid out, ideal for Zinnemann’s careful method. The bitter taste of the Campari that Fox drinks with fusspot gun-maker Cyril Cusack prevails.

About Endlessness (Roy Andersson, 2019). The new one from the Swedish master is just now arriving for regular consumption, and it is much as before: brief blackouts, meticulously/obsessively presented. Andersson has stripped down his thing so that even less happens within these tableaux than before, perhaps the inevitable result of pursuing this style. Not so much Campari as – aquavit? (full review 4/30)

Movie Diary 4/25/2021

93rd Academy Awards. It was cooler to look at than usual, and a few things were significantly better than the Oscars of late, including the absence of music beneath speeches to hurry the winners away (please, let’s make this a permanent deal). I particularly cherished the clips, which played out as single scenes, instead of a trailer-like montage. They used to pick a single moment to represent the movie or actor back in the 70s, and it was often something very telling and memorable; the montage, by comparison, is a hurried commercial. And no songs! Yes!

In the Earth (Ben Wheatley, 2021). My review here. A collection of nicely-handled bits and bobs reminiscent of other folk-horror films, and then a pretty annoying descent into gimmickry toward the end.

Barton Fink (Joel Coen, 1991). First re-visit in many years. The Coens’ cleverness sometimes undercuts their mystery, something that they got better at as the years went by. John Goodman’s “Because you DON’T LISTEN!” still strikes me as one of the greatest observations in any Coen film, superbly delivered.

The Friday 4/23/2021

Joel Fry, Hayley Squires: In the Earth (courtesy Neon)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

In the Earth. “This is the kind of movie you go along with because you enjoy the genre conventions—or you don’t.”

My latest episode of “The Music and the Movies,” a radio show produced by Voice of Vashon, is online and available. The subject this week is the five Best Score Oscar nominees for this year; I play my favorite cuts from the soundtracks of Soul, Mank, Minari, Da Five Bloods, and News of the World. Listen to the Oscar show here.

Meanwhile, still online until at least Saturday night at midnight is my show on music associated with the films of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Then on Sunday 4/25 at 7 p.m., the new episode drops, this one about music from this year’s other Oscar-nominated (or in some cases, not) movies.

More vintage 1980s reviews this week at my other website, What a Feeling! To wit: B.W.L. Norton’s Three for the Road, a road-movie romance with Charlie Sheen; Steven Okazaki’s Living on Tokyo Time, a likable low-budget indie from an Oscar-winning documentary maker; Frank Perry’s Hello Again, a Shelley Long vehicle with a Lazarus twist; Andre Techine’s Scene of the Crime, with Catherine Deneuve in excellent form; and Gillian Armstrong’s High Tide, a fine reunion of director, actress (Judy Davis), and continent (Australia).

Movie Diary 4/20/2021

Outbreak (Wolfgang Petersen, 1995). Working on a project, so revisiting something here I never thought I’d revisit. It is shameless.

What’s Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972). Not working on a project, merely taking time for one of the Horton household’s “Movies for Fun” (TM). It holds up very nicely, trim and smart. This time I felt like I heard Buck Henry’s voice very distinctly in certain spots (the courtroom scene, especially), although I’ve no idea how the writing went down.

Movie Diary 4/19/2021

Street of Sinners (William Berke, 1957). Continuing my investigation into the films of William Berke, prolific B-movie maker. This is from his late period of independent crime pictures, and although it doesn’t have the New York atmosphere of The Mugger or Cop Hater, it’s got some interesting and/or flat-out weird scenes. George Montgomery plays a new, by-the-book beat cop, who inherits a notorious neighborhood run by tavern owner Nehemiah Persoff. (Either that, or a cigar-store wooden Indian plays the cop; it’s hard to tell.) Montgomery’s flatfoot is so uptight you wonder whether some great neurosis is going to be revealed about him, but no, he just needs to become more realistic about his methods. And speaking of Method, Geraldine Brooks gives a high-powered Actor’s Studio performance as a lush who takes a liking to the cop, a twitchy, occasionally startling turn for a character doomed to end badly. Lots of juvenile delinquents and hot rods; the Wild One moment comes with the question “What’s wrong?” and the answer “The whole world.” The cast includes Marilee Earle, who also starred in Berke’s The Lost Missile and Island Women, Joseph H. Lewis’s Terror in a Texas Town, and Jacques Tourneur’s The Fearmakers and basically nothing else. The well-traveled Stephen Joyce makes his film debut and leans heavily on James Dean’s ghost; also debuting is Andra Martin, soon to be immortalized in The Thing That Couldn’t Die. Overall, not exactly great, but there are some inventive shots, including a dangerous-looking stunt with an out-of-control hot rod.